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  • Vivek Murthy and Alice Chen

Better Together - Orchestra on a Farm

Dear Friends,

We heard a story this week from our friend Jessica that put a smile on our faces. After 20 years of bringing children together to make music, Bainbridge Island Youth Orchestra faced a dilemma this year. How could they continue to gather the children of the community while keeping them safe? In stepped two local farmers who offered a large covered area on their land so the kids could get together and create music despite the pandemic! The kids are thrilled. And the goats at the farm are probably pretty pleased to be serenaded too.

The pandemic has forced all of us to think outside the box about how to stay connected and how to manage loneliness when obvious fixes can feel out of reach. The past couple of weeks, we have heard stories from you about challenges you are facing in staying connected.

  • An emergency medicine physician shared a challenge many will recognize. He has elderly relatives that he longs to visit. One has severe dementia, and the other is hard of hearing, so virtual visits are just not working. But he is in a high-exposure profession. What should he do?

  • A single mother of a high-needs child is stretched to her limit. As she puts it, it’s not virtual companionship she’s lacking, it’s family. It’s people to help her raise her son, to be with him while she a

  • Some wrote about the missed moments of connection at work and the resulting fraying of team bonds as the weeks and months drag on. People are feeling isolated despite all-day Zoom calls, as they miss the small moments of talking about a colleague’s day or sharing a meal.

One thing that struck us as you shared your experiences is that so often we don’t know what others are struggling with. As we write this letter, many of us are reeling from the shock of learning that Chadwick Boseman of Black Panther fame died after 4 years of privately battling colon cancer while he publicly played roles that inspired so many of us - Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, and King T’Challa. Even superheroes have hidden struggles.

We leave you with 3 suggestions for this week on how to ease the loneliness and isolation of these challenging times:

  1. Recognize everyone is struggling right now in their own way. You’re not alone if you’re having a tough time managing. It’s not always easy to see the private struggles of those around us, so we end up feeling even more isolated and lonely when we have a hard time. But so many people are trying to figure out how to keep their families safe, home school their children, deal with sudden economic insecurity, and manage the depression, anxiety, and fear that come with difficult and uncertain times. You are not alone.

  2. Be honest and open about how you are doing with one person this week. As uncomfortable as it might feel to be vulnerable, it is in those moments of honest sharing that our stress eases and our connection is strengthened. Choose one person, one interaction where you are going to take a leap of faith and be real. And see how you feel.

  3. Consider getting together with a friend, family member, or neighbor in person - but in a safe, low risk environment (e.g. outside, 6 feet or more apart, and with masks on). As helpful as technology is, there is something powerful about being physically present with one another.

Let’s begin this week knowing that we always have within us the capacity to connect deeply and authentically with others. It may be buried at times under stress, worry, and difficult circumstances. But it is always there. And we glimpse it in those small, unexpected moments of connection with a stranger or someone we love.

We'd love for your friends and family to join our conversation - could you forward this letter so they can subscribe here?

Wishing you well,

Alice and Vivek

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